ith more than 1.5 million deaths and 69 million cases worldwide, the coronavirus outbreak was a crisis unlike any other in our lifetime. For most of us, the last year was an isolated one, avoiding friends and family to reduce the virus’ spread. We look forward to a vaccine, and hopefully, a return to normalcy. But for millions, life can never be what it was. Some will have ongoing effects from the virus, while others will continue to grieve those lost. More still will be recovering economically, having lost their homes or their jobs during last year. Life will never be the same for them.
It may seem strange to be talking about memes in this context. They are often seen as frivolous or inconsequential. However, this year, memes were one of the only safe ways to express ourselves to large groups of people. Our only connection to the outside world was the internet. On social media and through memes, people could connect and, at the very least, blow off some steam.
Death followed everyone this year, influencing the meme output that littered social media. The memes that rose to the top reflected the fatalism of the moment. Meme after meme showed humanity’s relationship with death and the virus through irony, anger, disbelief and humor. These memes created a record of our plague year as it happened.
Wood Sitting on a Bed
Wood Sitting on a Bed is one of the biggest memes of the year. Beginning at the very start of the lockdown in the U.S., memers hid the picture in links to faux government messages. The meme was the first of many bait-and-switch trends to take over the internet this year, perhaps, filling in the many gaps of the procedures and best practices that the U.S. government failed to give us.
Slowly but surely, the meme weaved its way into the fabric of the internet. Wood Sitting on a Bed is obviously not safe for work, but there is something wholesome about the picture. Considering all the images that memers worked Wood into, people found comfort in his confident smirk. The meme is almost an inverse of Meatspit or Goatse, an explicit bait-and-switch that people welcomed.
The man behind the meme, Wardy Joubert, sadly died in 2016. After Vice caught up with his family about the meme, a GoFundMe launched to secure Jourbert’s headstone, which would memorialize him more properly. They reached the goal following the doc’s premiere. What started as a very NSFW meme ended in a bit of meme community togetherness that showed Joubert’s family how much the internet appreciated seeing him whenever they clicked a fake link.
Coffin Dance / Dancing Pallbearers
Few memes captured the moment as well as the Dancing Pallbearers. Initially used to punctuate fail videos, the meme became a symbol of the consequences of COVID-era irresponsibility. Soon, the Nana Otafrija Pallbearing and Waiting Service became internet celebrities, telling people to “Stay home or dance with us.” Is there a better slogan for the pandemic?
The meme’s continued relevance is a reflection of our ongoing nightmare. Carrying coffins, they provide a reaction to those who shrug off the warnings, ignore the precautions and continue to spread a virus that has killed more than a million so far. It’s no wonder why this was Know Your Meme’s Meme of the Year.
Shredded Cheese Fajita Sad Wife / My Wife, Date Night After 3+ Months
Shredded Cheese Fajita Wife hit the internet at the wrong time. After three months of quarantine and one month into racial justice protests, Shredded Cheese Wife reeked of bad taste. Someone complaining about slow service as millions took to the streets to protest police violence against Black people, while others risked their lives to serve them food, is a simple case of not reading the room.
As the world mocked the “gun-toting couple in St. Louis”https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/ken-and-karen-st-louis-missouri-gun-couple/, Shredded Cheese Fajita Wife fought a low-stakes war against under-cheesed fajitas. The meme didn’t last long, as ones like this rarely do. But it does serve as a reminder for a time when the two biggest stories in the world converged around one meme, one meal and one woman desperate for some shredded cheese.
Hello darkness my old friend…. pic.twitter.com/fodn2GKP38
— ElElegante101 (@skolanach) June 28, 2020
Confused Reporter Jonathan Swan
In a presidency overrun by reaction images, exploitables, catchphrases, remixes and just about any other meme you can think of, it’s genuinely incredible when one lasts longer than a day. But President Trump’s astounding interview with Axios did just that. Swan’s furrowed brow and squinting eyes encapsulated the government’s grotesque failures throughout the pandemic.
During the Axios interview, Swan asks President Trump to react to a graph showcasing the United States’ staggering death toll numbers. After concluding that they weren’t so bad and that the U.S. was actually doing better than some other countries (we weren’t), he hands the graphs back to Swan, mouth slightly open and shocked by Trump’s reading of the situation. Today, more than 300,000 people are dead in the U.S., and while a vaccine may be on the way, the reaction will remain a perfect image for the crisis.
Tested Positive For Missing The Homies
Not the most popular meme on the list, Tested Positive For Missing the Homies is a meme that cut to the heart of the loneliness and isolation many felt this year. Like Ronnie, the Jersey Shore‘s least sympathetic meathead, crawling up on the couch is about all we can do. It might be the safest course of action, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Few memes hit harder.
Separated from our friends and families, we’re all testing positive for the same disease. Hopefully, the vaccine can fix that one too.
2020 Bingo isn’t specifically a coronavirus meme. However, as the virus worsened throughout the year, the meme ran alongside the news, becoming a popular and frequently used reaction to current events. 2020 was beyond parody due to the ceaseless onslaught of bad news, and every time another shoe dropped, it was an opportunity for someone to call out “BINGO!”
2020 Bingo reflected the acceptance of tragedy and horror now present in our everyday lives. It’s a defense mechanism for headlines that make our stomach sink. At least we can still laugh about it.
Nature Is Healing
Not every tragedy has a silver lining and COVID-19 is one of them. The Dolphins Have Returned to Italy and Nature Is Healing mocked headlines and social media posts about how the natural world is returning to its former lusters as humanity locks down.
The phrase is offensive, especially to those who lost their lives or loved ones during the pandemic. People soon ascribed it to mundane examples of things returning to normal, absurd bits of internet silliness or human corruption that more closely resembles the pre-corona world. It was the perfect response to phony optimism for problems that no one is solving.
Toilet Paper Hoarding
One of the first quarantine memes, Toilet Paper Hoarding is a relic of a simpler time when we thought we’d be out of this by summer. That didn’t happen.
The meme showed us how people were going to handle the pandemic. Focused on the wrong things, America would fail to rise to the challenge of the moment. Through panic, selfishness and long lines at Costco, “Toilet Paper Hoarding” showed us what America would be like over the next year. Nine months in, those early days look like heaven.
“Drink bleach” is an old internet expression, a catchall for comments one disagrees with. But when the President of the United States suggested that people ?inject themselves with disinfectant”:https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/events/trumps-inject-disinfectant-remarks/, the phrase took on a whole new meaning.
Taken from one of Trump’s most chaotic and meme’d press conferences of the year, the comment followed the President through the remainder of his time in office, particularly during that weekend when he was rushed to the hospital after catching the virus. It is, after all, one of the few times a world leader told his citizens to, essentially, drink bleach.
Looking for more of this year’s best viral phenomena and memes? Be sure to check out our other 2020 meme roundups below: